On Monday June 6th I woke up to the news that my friend Dom Phillips had been missing for 24 hours in the Yavarí Valley, one of the most dangerous regions of the Amazon. I was with Bruno Pereira, one of the most important indigenous people of his generation. Three days later, a peasant woman woke me up and asked for help because two families had gone into the jungle: some gunmen had holed their houses. Two weeks earlier, two other homes in the same community had been burned down, with adults and children being taken hostage. I later received a request for help evacuating a leader in the region who was at risk of death due to escalating violence. I stopped, took a deep breath, and had to decide what had priority. It is outrageous to have to choose between those who have disappeared, victims of attacks and death threats. This humiliation is called war.
I am describing my week to show that the disappearance – and likely death of Dom and Bruno – which has mobilized the press and the world is no exception. But it means that the war in the Amazon has reached a citizen of the northern hemisphere, a respected journalist, a white man. It’s a new fact that indicates a limit has been crossed, increasing the risk for everyone.
Bolsonaro’s deliberately delayed start of the searches, only exacerbated by internal and external pressures, as well as the recurring victim disqualifications he promotes in his public statements, demonstrate that the issue is not one of negligence or incompetence, but of method. With less than four months to go before the election, Bolsonaro has shown how defenders of the jungle will be treated even in the face of global upheaval and has indicated he will continue to support his Amazon base, made up of thieves of public lands, Loggers and owners of illegal mining operations. Decent people confirm that the state in the Amazon is missing. I do not share this view. The state is very present. Bolsonaro has appropriated the state and corrupted it on an unprecedented scale, dismantling protections, controlling defense organs and giving free rein to the exploiters of the jungle.
However, the war that Bolsonaro is waging against the world’s largest tropical forest and its peoples has not come close to Europe because it has reached a British journalist. This war has affected the lives of everyone on the planet since it began. The war that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is inflicting on Ukraine is still a 20th-century war. The longest and most insurmountable conflicts of the 21st century are taking place in natural enclaves, the true centers of a planet plunged into a climate catastrophe. Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira are his latest victims, but they certainly won’t be the last. The worldwide outcry that began on his behalf must become a stake in the war we have had to fight. The only way to keep the defenders of nature alive is if they are so numerous that it is necessary to kill all of us to silence them.
Translation by Meritxell Almarza.
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